By Bill Parry
It took several weeks, but President Donald Trump finally spoke out Tuesday about a spike in bomb threats against Jewish community centers across the United States and the desecration a Jewish cemetery in Missouri. There have been 69 threats in 27 states in the last month, according to the JCC Association on North America, with most coming last weekend.
“The anti-Semitic threats targeting our Jewish community at community centers are horrible and are painful and a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil,” Trump said.
U.S. Rep. Joseph Crowley (D-Jackson Heights) called the wave of threats against the Jewish community chilling and put the blame squarely on the president.
“Anti-Semitic crimes have been steadily increasing throughout the last year and have spiked since the beginning of 2017,” Crowley said. “It’s not hard to see a connection between the rhetoric used by the white nationalists given a platform by President Donald Trump’s campaign and the increase in threats against the Jewish people.”
On Wednesday, Crowley urged the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies to immediately investigate the recent threats in a letter signed by 155 members of Congress.
“There are few crimes more vile than threatening children, and these anti-Semitic threats against Jewish community centers are terrifying for our fellow Americans,” Crowley said. “The Trump administration (and law enforcement) must immediately announce their plans to investigate and stop these threats. These crimes are designed to strike fear in the Jewish community. This is unacceptable and the Trump administration must show its willingness to take on these types of crimes.”
Crowley, the House Democratic Caucus chairman, also addressed the rise of hate crimes in New York City. Fifty-six hate crimes were reported from Jan. 1 to Feb. 12, with 28 of the incidents targeting Jews, according to the NYPD. During the same time period last year, the total number of hate crimes totaled 31, with 13 targeting Jews.
“This report has me deeply concerned,” Crowley said before once again calling out Trump.
“It is hard not to see the connection between the hateful language used by President Trump since his inauguration and during his campaign and the rise of hate crimes in the U.S.,” he said. “When our leaders allow the darkest aspects of our society to flourish for political gains, the door opens for hate-filled attacks on individuals based solely on who these people are or what they believe. This is not what makes America great.”
Meanwhile, the city’s Commission on Human Rights reported a significant increase in discrimination inquiries last year, receiving 8,330 reports in 2016 compared to 5,296 reports in 2015, a nearly 60 percent rise. Discrimination inquiries include calls to the Commission’s Infoline, emails, website submissions, letters, in-person reports and referrals from other agencies, elected officials and advocates.
“In our current climate of fear and xenophobia, New York City is committed to protecting our most vulnerable communities from discrimination in every form,” Mayor Bill de Blasio said. “No matter where you come from, how you worship, or who you love, New York City will protect your rights. As a city we are stronger because of our diversity, and that is something we’ll always fight to protect.”
Disability discrimination claims made up the largest percentage of filings in 2016, composing nearly 20 percent of all claims. Racial discrimination claims made up 14 percent of all filings, followed by gender discrimination claims at nearly 12 percent.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr